News Story

Study: New Report Card Measures Elementary and Middle School Performance by Adjusting for Student Family Income

#1 School is DPS' Thirkell Elementary

For Immediate Release
Friday, June 28, 2013
Contact: Audrey Spalding
Director of Education Policy
Dan Armstrong
Marketing and Communications Team Leader

MIDLAND — The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has released a report card that ranks 2,362 elementary and middle schools. The Context and Performance report card takes student poverty level into account, in order to better examine school performance, and is based on four years of student test scores. This CAP report card is an “apples-to-apples” comparison for parents and policymakers.

The full report card and a searchable database of scores is available online here:

Thirkell Elementary is an example of the tremendous impact a first-class leader can have on a school’s performance,” said Audrey Spalding, the Center’s director of education policy and author of the report card.

Although about 90 percent of Thirkell’s students are from low-income households,  84 percent of fifth-graders scored proficient on the MEAP mathematics and reading tests in 2012. Thirkell students, on average, did far better on the MEAP than the state average. Adjusting for student background makes Thirkell’s success even clearer.

Including Thirkell, the top five schools in the state were: Thirkell (DPS), Iris Becker Elementary (Dearborn), Crestwood Accelerated Program (Crestwood), Webster Elementary (Livonia) and Lowrey Middle School (Dearborn).

Four years’ worth of MEAP test scores in all subjects and for grades 3 through 8 were adjusted based on the percentage of students in an elementary or middle school who qualified for a free lunch. A school’s “CAP Score” indicates how far above or below projections an elementary or middle school performed given its student population’s socioeconomic status, with 100 set as the average.

The Dearborn school district did especially well overall: Nineteen (68 percent) of Dearborn’s elementary schools received A’s or B’s.

Of the 86 DPS elementary and middle schools, just 19 (22 percent) received A’s or B’s. Fifty-three (62 percent) received D’s or F’s. The lowest-scoring school in Detroit was Burns Elementary-Middle School, which has been taken over by the statewide Education Achievement Authority. Indeed, all EAA schools received F’s on this report card. Since report card grades are based on student MEAP scores for 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, the EAA schools scores are more indicative of past school management than current.

The CAP Report Card categorizes scores by locale, which allows parents, educators and policy makers to make comparisons among and within city, suburban, town and rural areas. Elementary and middle schools located in towns had an average CAP Score of 100.10, the highest of the four locale groups, followed by suburban schools with a score of 100.09. City elementary and middle schools had an average CAP score of 99.90 and rural schools were last at 99.86. Interestingly, the 117 elementary and middle schools in the rural remote sub-locale had the highest average CAP score — 102.14. The top-scoring individual elementary and middle schools in each major locale group were:

  • City: Thirkell Elementary (Detroit Public Schools),
    136.98 CAP Score
  • Suburb: Crestwood Accelerated Program (Crestwood),
    132.81 CAP Score
  • Town: Franklin Elementary School (Cadillac),
    114.27 CAP Score
  • Rural: Jamestown Elementary School (Hudsonville),
    116.16 CAP Score

"This report card is a useful tool for parents, educators and policymakers,” said Spalding. “By taking student family background into account, it enables parents to compare schools, helps school officials assess school performance and provides policymakers with school rankings that do not penalize schools for educating needier students.”

To view our feature video on Thirkell Elementary, go here.

To view an interview with Audrey Spalding, the Mackinac Center’s director of education policy, go here

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich. The largest state-based free-market think tank in the country celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

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Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.